Domestic Violence Restraining Orders Attorneys in Rhode Island
Helping Victims of Domestic Violence in Rhode Island and Beyond
Rhode Island General Laws, §15-15 Domestic Abuse Protection, defines the role of the Family Court in granting a restraining order between certain individuals. According to RI Gen. Laws §15-15-1, the act at issue must have occurred between present or former family members, parents, stepparents, or persons who are or who have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship within the past one year in which at least one of the persons is a minor. If a relationship does not exist between the parties to allow for a Family Court Action, a person can petition for a restraining order in the District Court.
A Family Court action can be brought on behalf of an individual, on behalf of a minor, or both. A restraining order may be issued by the Family Court, if a person is attempting to cause or is causing physical harm; placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm; causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat of force, or duress; stalking or cyberstalking.
A Family Court Restraining Order is initiated by the filing of a Complaint, together with an Affidavit. These cases are often referred to as “Abuse” cases. In order to distinguish these cases from other matters in Family Court, the court’s file number is followed by an “A.” The action must be filed in the county where the Plaintiff/victim resides. There are no minimum residency requirements to file this kind of action. Many of the local shelters or support groups can assist a person to file these types of actions without charge. Members of these groups are usually volunteers or paid staff members who are not attorneys. You can contact our office or your local Family Court clerk’s office for the contact information for these groups.
These cases are filed as distinct actions, and are separate from a proceeding for divorce. A filing fee to the court is not required. You must disclose to the court, the existence of a prior or pending action for divorce or separation. These actions can be filed “ex parte,” meaning on behalf of only one party; without notice to the other person. If the action is granted “ex parte”, it must be put on the court calendar for a hearing within 21 days of the Order being issued. This allows an opportunity for the Defendant to be heard. When granted, a copy of the Orders are provided to the local police, and a copy must be served upon the Defendant to become effective.
Any relief granted by the court shall be for a fixed period of time, not to exceed three (3) years, at the expiration of which time the court may extend any order, upon motion of the plaintiff, for any additional time, that it deems necessary to protect the plaintiff from abuse. The court may modify its order at any time upon motion of either party. (See R.I. Gen. Laws §15-15-3.) The district court has criminal jurisdiction over all adult violations. The Family Court has jurisdiction over juvenile violations.
Pursuant to the “abuse” statute, the Family Court can make certain orders, on a temporary basis, before a hearing is held. These include, but are not limited to: (1) Ordering that the defendant be restrained and enjoined from contacting, assaulting, molesting, or interfering with the plaintiff at home, on the street, or elsewhere, whether the defendant is an adult or a minor; (2) Ordering the defendant to vacate the household immediately; and (3) Awarding the plaintiff custody of the minor children of the parties, if any.
Additional orders that can be entered after notice and a hearing, (whether the Defendant appears or not) include, but are not limited to: (1) Ordering either party to make payments for the support of a minor child or children of the parties as required by law; (2) Ordering the defendant to surrender physical possession of all firearms in his or her possession, care, custody or control. The statute very specifically outlines the terms and conditions with regard to firearms and the Defendant’s responsibility thereto, together with the fines and consequences of disregarding the terms of such orders.
There are significant consequences to both parties if they decide not to appear before the Court on the scheduled hearing date for an Abuse complaint. Therefore, we highly recommend that a party consult with an attorney before they decide not to attend.
These Family Court restraining orders are not the same as a “No Contact Order” issued in a criminal action, which is usually issued as a result of an arrest. The procedures, requirements and protections of a “No Contact Order” vary from those of a Family Court restraining order. Because of these differences, it is sometimes advisable to file a complaint for a Family Court restraining order, even when there is a criminal “no contact order” in place. If you are a victim, and there is a no contact order in place, you should consult with a Family Law attorney about whether it would be appropriate for you to file an action for a restraining order in the Family Court as well.
If you have suffered from Domestic Violence or feel you have unjustly been charged contact the Domestic Violence and Restraining Order Attorneys of The Law Offices of Howe and Garside LTD